Seven Republicans joined Tuesday’s led by Rep. Matt Gaetz. For the most part, those allies were ideological companions like Reps. Eli Crane of Arizona and Bob Good of Virginia.
But then there was Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, an unexpected McCarthy opponent who has emerged as one of the most intriguing and unpredictable members of the House.
Her vote against McCarthy earned Mace — not for the first time — outrage from mainstream Republicans, some of whom have grown weary of .
“Nancy Mace has the political instincts of noodle salad – what an absolute feckless disappointment she has turned out to be,” Meghan McCain, the conservative commentator and daughter of the late Sen. John McCain,
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Forging her own path
The first woman to graduate from The Citadel, Mace was first elected to represent the Charleston area in 2020, emerging from a three-candidate Republican primary to , the unlikely Democratic incumbent.
Her first day in Washington as a working House member was January 3, 2021 — three days before the deadly pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol. Mace at first denounced Trump for inciting the riot, “put all our lives at risk.”
But she then backed away and voted against impeaching him.
Like the Republican Party at large, Mace seemed to realize that the base was still with Trump, and that blaming him directly for January 6 was a political non-starter.
By June, Mace’s transformation was complete, with Politico as having “turned into one of former President Donald Trump’s unlikeliest top defenders.”
It wasn’t enough to gain his endorsement during her 2022 reelection campaign, but Mace nevertheless over Trump-backed primary challenger Katie Arrington.
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Not exactly the moderate some expected
Mace was sexually assaulted and raped as a teenager, and has made women’s health, most notably reproductive choice, in Washington. She has been a prominent critic of anti-choice measures like Florida’s six-week abortion ban, which she said was “not compassionate.”
Banning abortion was also bad politics, she astutely argued. “As Republicans, we need to read the room on this issue because the vast majority of folks are not in the extremes,” .
Mace used cannabis to cope with the trauma of sexual violence and . “We have the best cannabis of the world,” she told Yahoo News last year.
Unlike fellow Republicans who want fewer restrictions on Second Amendment rights, Mace — who carries a gun for protection — favors more restrictions, including background checks.
“We’ve not learned anything from the midterm elections if we’re going to sit here on our hands silently, not offering any type of solution to reduce gun violence in our country,”
Working with progressive Rep. Barbara Lee, Mace recently across the country.
At the same time, she sponsored a bill that would ban transgender athletes from girls’ sports teams.
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Mace in the limelight
In a city where attention is oxygen, Mace has managed to thrive.
“Mace enjoys having an audience, and when you’re with her, it’s easy to be captivated,” t “She has a big laugh and a disarming tendency to overshare — not about politics but about more basic aspects of the human condition (bodily functions, say, or her weakness for margaritas).”
She has been bipartisan in her feuds, having tangled with both progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York () and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the far-right rising star ().
She has also gained notice for a raunchy sense of humor, which she displayed in a roast-style speech at and, more recently and somewhat more controversially, at a gathering of religious conservatives, where .
But she can also give off the sense that she lacks the courage to truly stand up for her convictions
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That is on what was then known as Twitter in early January, as he was leading the resistance to McCarthy’s speakership bid.
Although she was never going to be a party loyalist, she did not appear to be frustrated by McCarthy’s tenure when she spoke to the New York Times about six months later.
“Every handshake I’ve taken with Kevin has been legit,” .
So what changed?
In posted after she cast her vote against McCarthy, Mace said that he had, indeed, broken his promises to her.
“We were promised we would move on women’s issues and legislation to keep our communities safe,” . “Those things never happened.”
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